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U.N. Not Eying Internet Control

The United Nations will not try to take the lead in determining the future of the Internet, the head of the U.N. telecommunications agency said Friday.

Hamadoun Toure, a Malian who was elected director-general of the International Telecommunication Union in November, said the agency would be just one of many organizations involved in shaping the Internet's development.

"It is not my intention to take over the governance of the Internet," Toure told reporters in Geneva at his first press conference. "There is no one single issue that can be dealt with by one organization alone."

He said the ITU would work with other agencies such as the quasi-independent Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, which manages the day-to-day flow of data across the Internet from its Marina del Rey, Calif., headquarters and oversees key rules that govern how computers communicate.

Control over these rules has been a major point of contention between governments, with some developing countries demanding complete independence of ICANN from the U.S. government, perhaps with the U.N.-affiliated body taking control.

Other countries have threatened to set up a parallel infrastructure that could lead to multiple, incompatible Internets.

"We have to avoid a 'cyberwar' between governments," Toure said, adding that regulation should be as light as possible and adapt to local conditions.

He praised the U.S. Federal Communications Commission as a model regulatory body, saying the FCC was "one of our very dynamic members ... with a very positive attitude" toward solving technical issues.

Toure's four-year term begins as the U.N. increases its efforts to make communication technology part of its global development plans and bridge the so-called "information divide" between rich and poor countries.

Two ITU summits in 2003 and 2005 proposed expanding telephone access to at least half the world's population by 2012. But the meetings grappled with the question of Internet governance, with neither providing a lasting solution.

Toure said a second priority during his leadership would be to increase security of the Internet against hackers, spammers and other cybercriminals -- increasingly important as the world's dependence on telecommunication technology grows.